Sometimes the spoken word can be very telling. The following are the words used by Richard J. Kramer, the chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., in an earnings call on July 26 covering the company’s second-quarter earnings (according to the transcript):

“Now while it isn’t our practice to give long-term viewpoints as part of our quarterly earnings report, I want to come back and provide a couple of data points to help you think about the opportunities that we see as we’re developing our plans beyond 2019. There are three factors I want to highlight related to our future outlook.

“The first is our work to continue to improve the competitiveness of our manufacturing footprint. You saw the announcement we made in March related to our German factories. This will improve earnings by $60 million as it’s completed, with the full benefit expected by 2022. While we are not in a position to make any further announcements today, we are working on a significant restructuring plan to reduce low-value, high-cost capacity in the U.S. This plan should have savings at least as high as the actions in Germany and beyond (a) similar timetable.” Kramer’s words aren’t a good omen for the longevity of Goodyear’s manufacturing operation in Gadsden.

Goodyear-Gadsden has been in operation almost 90 years. The Gadsden Times announced on Dec. 11, 1928, that “a gigantic rubber mill costing $30 million will be built in the south in Gadsden, Alabama, on the east side of the Coosa River. The announcement was made by Clifton Slusser and Charles Stillman, vice-presidents of the Goodyear company. Contracts were already signed by citizens of Gadsden, state officials, Alabama Power Company, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company. The official announcement that Gadsden has finally captured this industrial prize, the largest ever brought south, is sure to cause great joy throughout the city and county and, in fact, throughout Alabama, for the fight in its last stages narrowed down to a struggle between Gadsden and Atlanta — between Alabama and Georgia. It is a prize that will make Gadsden the second city in Alabama and will create here one of the largest industrial centers in the country.”

That was how Gadsden viewed the opportunities for growth and wealth in 1928. Now, nearly nine decades later, Goodyear-Gadsden has an uncertain future.

The company is facing considerable headwinds in profitability, competitiveness and even viability. Kramer became CEO in April 2010 with annual sales in 2011 of $22.7 billion. In just nine years under his leadership, annual sales have decreased by $7.3 billion to $15.5 billion (in 2018). Additionally, Goodyear’s stock price is presently at a little more than $11, compared to a high of $37 and a low of $28 in 2017. Kramer is desperately attempting to increase the stock price; hence the verbiage concerning future manufacturing restructuring.

Goodyear’s debt level is $5.8 billion. I would like to do Kramer’s performance review for nine-plus years he has been the company’s CEO.

Several things raise concerns about the viability of the Goodyear-Gadsden plant. First, the plant’s age is a consideration. While there was some modernization in the past 10 years, there are elements in the plant that are part of the original structure.

Second, Goodyear has proposed offering buyouts to hourly employees, which means it sees no chance of maintaining or increasing employment. Third, there has been no significant capital improvements in the last four years.

Fourth, and the most damaging, Goodyear has opened a new tire plant in San Luis de Potosi, Mexico, with a capacity of 6 million tires per annum.

Fifth, five new competing tire plants were constructed in the U.S. in the past two years, increasing domestic capacity.

As I said in a previous commentary, a delegation of federal, state, local and union officials should head to Akron, Ohio, to discuss the Gadsden plant’s future. We, as a community, owe no less to the employees of Goodyear-Gadsden. Kramer’s words should be taken seriously. The time for action is now!

John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp. He can be reached at johnfloyd538@gmail.com. The opinions reflected are his own.